A history of the Bulli Rifle Club


bulli rifle range 3

“The Drummond Battery Kembla Fortress (12th Bd. V.D.C. Taken at Bulli Rifle Range 1945. Colin Southall last on right top row at back. Sgt Rick Southall 7th from right bottom front row.” This image is looking south from near the present foot lane way connects Hutton Avenue with Beach Street, across Slacky Creek. The white house to the left sat in what is today Edmondson Street. The large tree behind this house is on Park Road.

THE following story was complied by S.W. Ellis, and was sent to me when I was editor of the Bulli Times newspaper in 1993. I discovered this three page typed history, entitled “History of the Bulli Rifle Club”, along with the captioned images, while going through a box of old letters and photos recently.  


IN approximately 1908 citizens of the adjoining towns of Bulli and Woonona started campaigning in earnest for the establishment of a rifle range in their local area (In fact it would appear that the campaign had started perhaps some three years earlier, but unfortunately detailed records are not available to support this theory).

Other towns in the district, namely Coledale and Austinmer, also had their own rifle ranges as did numerous small towns throughout the state.

On April 27 1908 the then Officer, Supervisor Rifle Clubs wrote to the Mr. W Capon Esq. of Woonona. (Mr. Capon was secretary of the then fledging club and appears in most of the correspodence dealing with the building of the range.)

Mr Capon was advised that “action is now being taken for the resumption of land required for a rifle range at Bulli, and as soon as something definite is arrived at you will be further communicated with.” (Not surprisingly at this point no definite site had been agreed to…).

Whilst there seems to have been an old site (location unknown) it was suggested by Mr Capon, in his letters to the Officer Supervising Rifle Clubs, that there were two favourable sites available in the area. Mr. Capon describes the sites as :-

1). “The old Floyd estate, which Mr Farrell now holds”;

2). “A site at Bellambi on the Osborne estate, once occupied by Mr. Duffy”.

Around this time (1909) a meeting was held and the names of 35 townsfolk were obtained who were willing to become members of the club.

Those members were:

William Henry Capon, miner, 44.

William Arthgur Capon, miner, 16.

Joseph Pallier, cordial mfg, 28.

Joseph R Southall, miner shiftman, 45.

James Charlesworth, labourer, -.

James Morgan, miner, 49.

John Johnston, mine shiftman, 23

Alfred Blatch, tea merchant, 40.

Martin Graham, miner, 23

James Riyon [Rixon], saddler, –

John Morgan, miner, 23.

John Sangster, carpenter, -.

– Butcher, merchanic, – .

Arthur Petersen, miner, 31.

-Duryer, police, -.

-Gibbons, police, -.

Joseph Salisbury, miner

William Laugenberg, miner.

-Finlayson, -,-.

James Astill, miner.

Richard Rirton [Kirton], miner, 21.

Jacob Glass, draper, 51.

Joseph Lewis, miner.

Joseph Southall (jnr), miner.

George Jackson, miner.

William Arthur Lewis, grover.

Samuel Gaham, miner.

Wesley Martin, -.

William Richardson, clerk.

John Hiles, Wardsman, B.C. H.

Alfred Martin.

A. R. Gardener, school teacher.

Conrad Garland, miner.

Edward A. Graham, postmaster.

E. Williams, dentist.

William James Bourke, journalist, 30.

Stanley Marsh, miner, 20.

Henry Marsh, miner, 54.

bulli rifle range 1

“Officers of the 12th Bn. V.D.C. up till 1943. FRom 1944 and 1945 Drummond Battery, 9.2 inch coast artillary – Kembla Fortress. [Back] Lt. ? (Thirroul), ? , Capt. Frew. [front] Lt Vic. Dickson, Capt. ? Edmondson, Major S. Marsh, Lt. H. Bowyer. Taken at Bulli Rifle Range 1945, with old army area office in background.”

The club was then to be known as the Bulli and Woonona Civilian Rifle Club. On May 9 1911 advice was received by Mr Capon that funds had been approved for the purchase of the site and erection of the range.

On June 14 1912 work was well underway on the construction of a three target military range at Sandon Point – Bulli.

In fact on this date Mr Capon received :-

1). Standard rules,

2). Rifle club regulations, and

3). Application forms.

Mr Capon also received advice that the club would be loaned “1 Magazine Lee Enfield for every 5 Active members and 1 Martini Enfield for every 2 Active members”.

Rules and By-laws were printed and distributed to members around August 2 1912 via the Captain J. R. Southall and Secretary W. H. Capon.

Interesting facets of these by-laws were :-

# An annual subscription of 10/- per annum, payable quartely,

# The entrance fee for a club match not to exceed 1/- per members.

Shooting continued on this site up until 1957 as moves were made to use the area for a housing estate.

The Club then obtained a 20 year lease from the Bellambi Coal Co. and was fortunate enough to have the army construct a tem target range on the site at the eastern side of the railway.

The range was one of the few which had mounds situated from 100 yards to 900 yards. (This area had already seen service by the Corrimal Club which used steel targets in its regular use of Martini rifles. Additionally the Ingleburn/Campbelltown also utilised the range.)

The club flourished at this site for many years and was a local landmark in the area and, in fact, the target shed was used by passing aircraft as a marker point.

bulli rifle range 2

“The 9.2 Inch Drummond Battery Plotting Room. [back] Gnr A. Morris, Gnr W. Newman, Sgt W. Jackson, Sgt Ewag Jnr. , ?  [Front] Bdr. V. Eastman, L. Bdr C. Southall, Gnr R. White, Capt Frew, Lt. H. Bowyer, Gnr J. Brown, Gnr. N. Rigby. Photo taken at Bulli Rifle Range 1945.” This image shows the Hutton family house in Park Road Bulli in the top right hand corner. The Army Area Office directly behind the two men standing on the right, would have sat in Hutton Avenue.

Club championships were conducted each year with many local shooters gaining notoriety.

Club champion shooters during the period included such names as George Lewis, Colin Southall, Billy Cleaver, and George and Richard Ellis. An unusual feat was achieved in 1967 when father and son, Colin and Geoffrey Southall, won the senior and junior championship (resp.).

During 1968 Col Southall was instrumental in establishing a smallbore, or miniature class, for local schoolboys. Shhoting was conducted at 25 yards behind the main targets every Saturday monring. It was not uncommon to see as many as 40 young men with every manner of antique and new .22’s being instructed in target shooting and firearm safety.

Again due to the ‘urban sprawl’ the Club was forced to quit the range in 1969. For a short time afterwards the “miniature” club continued in the grounds of Wollongong High School and the base of an old quarry at Wollongong lighthouse.

In 1971 the club obtained access to dairy paddocks at Jamberoo. A local “cocky”, Mr Bruce Tate, allowed the construction of a 3 target range and shooting commenced each Saturday afternoon, on the proviso that his herd were ushered from the field of fire.

Costs for ammunition at the time were $2.60 for 7.62mm cartridges and $2.00 for .303 cartridges – a cheap price in relation to the costs of the sport in these times!

This arrangement lasted until December 31 1980 when, following the death of Mr. Tate, the estate was split up and Kiama Municipal Council wrote to the club giving notice to quit the range at Jamberoo.

In the absence of a “home” range and declining membership the club effectively disbanded. Some members joined other clubs whilst others took up other discipline such as smallbore and 10 metre shooting.

A change in attitude by the local government at the time caused many shooters to band together in support of their sport and for a brief period in the late 1980s the club started to function again, albeit with small membership, at the Nowra rifle range.

At this point in time the club is effectively wound-up mainly due to the non availability of ranges and a changing community attitude towards the sport.

-S.W. Ellis

-Bonnet Bay NSW

-April 2 1993.

tipsWould you like to make a small donation towards the running of the Looking Back and Bulli & Clifton Times websites? If you would like to support my work, visit my donation page where you can leave a small tip of $2, or several small tips, just increase the amount as you like. Your generous patronage of my work and research, however small it appears to you, will greatly help me with my continuing costs.

9 thoughts on “A history of the Bulli Rifle Club

  1. my Name is Ian Simmons
    I shot for Bulli rifle club on the Belambi range. On the 14 th of sept 1968 I shot 20 consecutive bulls eyes at 700 yards and still have the trophy, the bulls eye was only 24 inches with no rest and army amo also open sights this must be world record, yet I do not see my name in the writing above.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. From 1970 to 1973, when I was 11-14, I was a member of the Bulli Small Bore Rifle Club – which changed its name to The Woonona-Bulli RSL Small-Bore Rifle Club, when the club received patronage from the Woonona-Bulli RSL. My father Harry Dodd ran the club with Col Southall during that time. We competed at a number of ranges – Woonona, the Tech college, T.S. Albatross range at Wollongong Harbour, as well as away comps in Bowral etc. The club shoots were always held on a Sunday morning, and the results were printed in the Illawarra Mercury, sponsored by Ern Webb’s Sports Store. I have copies of several results as well as trophy spoons and badges if any one is interested. Cheers Simon Dodd

    Liked by 1 person

  3. That is no mean feat Ian. I shot on that range in the late 60’s using a Lee Enfield (School Cadet issued) and Army ammo. but only from 500 yds down. I scored numerous bulls (24″ circle) but never even 10 consecutive ones.
    The small bore range Simon refers to ‘the Tech College’ would be the one backing onto the school’s sports field. Later it became Keira Boys High when I shot on it with soccer being played in the background (wow – shock, horror today). When that range first open they tried .303’s, but only for one detail as the rounds carved huge grooves in the angled steel backing plate. That range was demolished in the early 80’s I think. The range at Wollongong Harbour was used mainly by the Sea Cadets (in my time) and I think closed when the Cadet Base there was demolished.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi I did not see my name mentioned. Ian Simmons I shot 20 consecutive bulls eyes at 700 yds on 14th September 1968, I beat col southall by one bulls eye. I think this is a world record


    • In Actual fact When I shot 20 consecutive bulls eyes at 700 yards, on the 14th Sept 1968 Col Southall was runner up with 20 bulls eyes. George Lewis and Bill cleaver were club secretaries and captain from memory.
      Lots of good shot have been shot by others, but all using rests and scopes, so I think my score still is a world record.


  5. As a young kid I competed a Keira Boy’s High School 25 yard range using a kalashnikov .22LR single shot bolt action rifle, also at a make shift range into the cliff below the North Wollongong light house. I also have clippings, spoons and Kangaroo pin from the club. Long story short – Joined the Army, ended up in the ‘Australian Army Combat Shooting Team’ Shooter rifle and pistol (rifle coach) (Australia, Bisley England, Connaught Ranges Ottawa Canada, Bloemfontein South Africa, Bruni and Camp Robinson Arkansas USA. Now semi retired, I still conduct Concealed Carry Weapons (CCW) classes for Nevada, Utah and Florida. Also Qualify Armed Guards and Retired Law Enforcement officers. Live in Las Vegas Nevada.

    Thank you to all the forgotten members of the Woonona-Bulli RSL Small-Bore Rifle Club back in the early 1970’s who got me started.



  6. Just a few comments, I was introduced to the Bulli Rifle Club at Bellambi? I think, by Bill Cleaver in late 1963. Bill was a Fitter at John Lysaghts and I was an Electrician from Glasgow aged 23 with a new wife, sponsored by lysaghts as an immigrant to work on the construction of the then new continuous galvanizing line . I shot a Lee Enfield with Parker-Hale peep, 6 aperture rear sight and a blade foresight. I left NSW In mid 1965 and traveled .interstate I was however to receive a small package by mail from Bill which was a small trophy stating that I had won the Clubs 2nd quarter championship 1964/65. Now the believe or not moment,at one club shoot as I just finished shooting [ I forget the distance] when the field comms set rang and the scorer said he was sending someone up with a surprise.
    It turned out I had placed 5 rounds through the marker in bullseye wrecking it, the scorer signed and dated the marker and said he had never seen this happen before Unfortunately later I had my wallet stolen which contained the marker. One thing that amazed and impressed me was the fact that at 900 yards the foresight was 2 or 3 times larger than the complete target, how anyone could hit a bull was a miracle Apologies for the long winded ramble, As you can see by my then age I am now 80 years, just thought someone might be intrested


    • HI Robert. I do not remember you, however i was a 10 pound pommy and arrived in Australia in 1964 and spent 6 weeks in the hostels with my new wife and a 1 year old baby boy, I then got a flat in Fairy Meadow 2 pound a week, My name is Ian Simmons, I know live in Queensland Australia.
      I am a steel fixer but I had to get a job where I could, so I got on at the steel works as a crane chaser, it was the first job I had ever had where I did not have to work hard, I got to know the truck driver who was allocated to our crane, he was a part time musician, he had a Long Branch .303 rifle and I had a trumpet that I could not play so I swapped him the trumpet for the rifle. and joined the Bulli club at Bellambi, I used to get on the bus owed by a chinaman at Fairy Meadow and go to Belambi with the .303 rifle no sling or hat, all I done was to take the bolt out and put it in my jeans pocket, no one in those days worried.
      I remember Bill Cleaver and lots of the others,Georg Lewis- Tom Farrington-Geoff Lodge- Stewart Peck who I went to lots of major shoots with, and a lot of others, on the 14 september 1968 I shot 20 consecutive bulls eyes and won the trophy for the year for the most consecutive bulls eyes, as you know the bulls eye at 700 yds was 24 inches, this was shot using the Parker- Hale peep sight with army amo no rests and no telescopes or stainless steel barrels etc.
      I never gave this a thought until my son and grandson went through my trophies and unbeknown to me got a silver ring made with a gold .303 cartridge rim in the centre, and where the primer is they got a brown diamond set in it and the words are engraved inside the ring 20 consecutive bulls eyes, it was only then did i realise this was a great feat, So I started to look on the net if any one had a better score and they dont, I will clarify that there are some very good shots made but they use hand loaded amo and rests and scopes and never get 20 consecutive bulls, so I wrote to the Guinness book of records but they would want me to do it while they were in attendance, well I am over 80 and as you know the wind and mirage play a big part in shooting.
      It was the time when the army stopped having the range and buildings were considered to close to the range. I joined the Illawarra pistol Club and I was Vice captain for one year and Captain for 4 years winning many big shoots and trophies, I left Oak flats near Wollongong and went bush like a gypsy and have now been living for 30 years in If you can find it on the map, a Place called Turkey Beach. in that time I have had 6 farms an two factories and a commercial building.
      in the last year I have joined the clay pigeon club quite expensive but i am have trouble hitting the clays and some of the older guys say you were a rifle shooter wasn’t you, and I say how do you know, they say when you shoot clays you do not sight the gun onto the clay or you will miss. I do still have some photos that I could send you by email if you wished.
      Old simmo


      • Hi Ian,
        Congratulations on two counts, 1) your incredible 20 bulls-eyes and 2) what appears to be a successful life.
        As you, I recently came across the small shooting trophy whilst rummaging in some boxes, and just wondered if the Bulli Rifle Club was still operating. I googled and came across this website, now I know, pity.
        Anyway, stay safe to you and your family, and more success in the future.
        Best regards

        Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s